Would JR have done the same thing? It's possible but there's nothing in his previous tenure or his current tenure to believe that's the case. That's what I liked about Smith. He wasn't afraid to go hard after the international market and make a real splash in an attempt to improve the franchise. He also drafted what many consider to be the Twins' third best prospect, Hicks. He also drafted Gibson, a ballsy but smart move after Kyle had dropped way down the list after breaking his arm (I think it was his arm). People seem to forget that the Twins minor league system improved (by a lot) under Smith's tenure as GM. It was under Ryan that the Twins were left in a spot where Nick Blackburn was a "top prospect" (though it was under Ryan that the Twins picked up Arcia). The Twins farm was really bad in 2007/2008 and its current strength is largely due to the work of Bill Smith, not Terry Ryan. Most of the guys we're excited about right now were acquisitions under Smith's stewardship.
On the other hand, outside of the 2009/2010 offseason, Smith's handling of the Major League roster was abominable. Trading the Twins' two best pitchers before the 2008 season, moving Hardy for Hoey, Nishioka, etc... Nearly every move was a disaster. The Capps/Ramos trade was bad but it wasn't even close to Smith's worst move as GM. The Twins got some quality time out of Capps, more than they can say about Hoey, Nishioka, and the pile of garbage they got in return for Santana.
More on the farm system. In his fangraphs chat today, Mike Newman was asked:
Regarding the AL Central, which team do you think has the best prospects, which has the worst? http://cdnsl.coveritlive.com/templat.../fb_share2.png
Worst is still the Chicago White Sox and will continue to be for the near future at least. As for the best, Minnesota hands down. They have a ton of talent in the low minors and traded for a bunch more. It's a sneaky good system right now.
Another snippet from Mike Newman on maybe my favorite Twins prospect:
"Comment From Fred
Your thoughts on Max Kepler? Do you think a breakout season coming off a breakout season is in the cards for him?
I would not make a top-100 list without Max Kepler in it. Very nice player with an above average skill set across the board. He's a good bet to break out in 2013."
And he likes Kepler more than Bubba Starling of the Royals.
If Berrios and one of Meyer/May break out this season and anything good happens with one of the college arms, this is a top five system even if you remove Gibson and Hicks as they transition into the majors.
No one expects Ryan to sign expensive players.....Smiths biggest legacy was his willingness to do so. But Ryan will get all the credit for rebuilding the twins when sano and Kepler are up.
Based on Cespedas and Puig's contract, plus Diaz's premium defensive position, you're probably looking at six or so years at $7 or $8 million annually. Cespedas' successful year and the international cap omitting Cubans has Diaz in line for a huge payday. I won't be overly disappointed if/when the Twins quit bidding.